Wednesday 22 March 2023

Farms will have to close down to meet nitrogen targets, ministers say






Drastic action is needed in large parts of the Netherlands to meet EU rules on nitrogen-based pollution and that means some farms will have to close, ministers said on Friday.

In total, levels must be slashed by 70% in 131 key areas, nature minister Christianne van der Wal and farm minister Henk Staghouwer said.

The new approach to the problem, drawn up following a 2019 court case, involves monitoring nitrogen emissions on a region by region basis. In some remote areas, nitrogen-based pollution must be cut by 12% by 2030, but in others, close to vulnerable habitats, much more drastic action is needed, ministers say.

The 12 Dutch provinces have now been given just over a year to draw up detailed plans to meet the targets, looking at emissions by farming and industry, construction and traffic. More details will also be published in October.

Farming – both arable and livestock – is responsible for some 41% of the nitrogen-based pollution in habitats which are protected by EU law as Natura 2000 locations. While some farmers will be able to cut pollution or move their operations, ‘not all farmers will be able to continue’, ministers say.

What’s all the fuss about nitrogen in the Netherlands?

The aim of the plan is to cut total nitrogen emissions by 50% by 2030.

The new plan follows a Council of State ruling in May 2019 which said the government’s strategy for reducing excess nitrogen was in breach of EU directives on protecting vulnerable habitats.

That plan was known as the Programma Aanpak Stikstof, or PAS, and was developed to reduce the emissions of reactive forms of nitrogen, such as ammonia from farming and nitrous oxide from burning fuel, by ‘balancing out’ pollution against measures to combat it.


Farming organisations say they plan to step up their protests following Friday’s announcement, starting with a demonstration in The Hague on June 22.

Last year and in 2020, protesting farmers caused chaos on motorways and in the city centre by using their tractors to reach the demonstrations.

Ministers have allocated a further €24.3 billion to fund the transition.

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